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A bit about the name:
We live in a world of division. We see the
world as consisting of Us and Them. This occurs on many levels ranging
from politics (Republican - Democrat), to sports, and yes it has even
invaded our faith life (Catholic - Protestant, liberal - conservative).
These divisions often lead us to view the "other" group as our enemy. But
the Council of Trent reminds us, our real enemy
is the devil or Satan. Thus, rather than working to beat the
Republicans or Democrats, the liberals or the conservatives, we should be Working to Beat Hell.
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Catholicism 101: Communal and Personal Prayer
Fr. Brian Carpenter
Prayer can be separated into two categories, communal prayer and personal prayer. Yet these terms can be deceptive. For individual and communal prayer has little to do with the number of people physically present up in a given space at a given time.
Communal prayer is liturgical prayer – prayer that is prayed by and on behalf of the Church. The most notable form of communal prayer is the Mass, but there are other forms of communal prayer as well. The celebration of the sacraments, as well as the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours is always communal prayer. This does not mean, however, that there is always a community of people on earth gathered together when the prayer is prayed. Many people, for example, pray the Liturgy of the Hours alone in their room. Yet, even in such a situation this prayer is communal prayer. For, the person praying the Liturgy of the Hours is united to the Universal Church in a mystical way such that the prayer is not his or her own individual prayer or devotion, but is the prayer of the Universal Church that exists throughout time and space. In a very real way, liturgy is prayed not by individuals, but by the entire body of Christ.
Because liturgical prayer belongs to the entire Body of Christ, it is usually accompanied by instructions (often called general instructions) as to how the prayer is to be prayed. These instructions cover a range of things from the order of prayers, gestures and postures, and roles of different people during the prayers (to name only a few). This ritualization of the prayer ensures that, since the prayer is being prayed by the one body of Christ, everyone who prays the prayer is united, expressing not their own personal ideas and notions, but those of the universal Church.
Personal prayer, on the other hand is that in which an individual, or even group of individuals, offer their own personal praise to God. Such prayer is called individual prayer, even if is prayed in large groups (for example 1000 people praying a rosary for peace constitutes personal prayer), for in this prayer it is not the entire body of Christ that is praying, but individuals.
In the life of a Catholic, both forms of prayer are necessary. There are times when we need to be united with the entirety of the Body of Christ. In such times we band together, united with Jesus Christ as our head, to offer proper worship to God. There are also times when we need to come to the Lord as individuals, worshipping God in ways specific to our own identity as individuals. Such worship, of course, must not contradict our communal worship (e.g. we cannot participate in the sacraments communally, and then privately worship the pagan god, Ba’al). Rather, our personal prayer must flow from our communal prayer, i.e. it must flow from our membership and participation in the Universal Prayer of the Church.
By developing habits of participating in both communal and personal prayer, we can develop a life of prayer that is unique to us as individuals, while at the same time is part of something much bigger than our individual selves.
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Brian Carpenter is a priest of the
Diocese of Rochester, NY. Fr. Brian Carpenter. Rev. Brian Carpenter.